I have been a mean girl and I’ve been bullied by mean girls. Because of my mother’s habit of moving us yearly, I went to quite a few different schools. One year, I was one of the most popular girls in my junior high, pushing my way to the top by humiliating other girls that I was threatened by. The next year, I was a complete freak who sat alone at lunch and was constantly picked on by a particularly mean group of boys. The following year, I was a cheerleader dating the most popular football player in my class. And then I ended my last couple years of high school as a nobody with just a few friends, treading lightly so as not to cause attention to myself in any way.
Suffice it to say, I’ve had my fair share of high school drama. Any drama that I was on the giving end of, I’m incredibly ashamed to have taken part in. And any drama that I was on the receiving end of, I remember the sting it left on my heart. I remember sitting in a circle of “friends” who had called me over to pick apart every thing they didn’t like about me and to tell me why they couldn’t be my friends anymore. I was a whore, my family had no money, I was too skinny, I was too insecure, the boy I lost my virginity to was also sleeping with a girl in this group and I was too stupid to know. I also remember when some friends had decided a few years prior that one girl had to leave our group. I was the one to confront her in the bathroom and make her cry explaining all the reasons we didn’t like her anymore. Talk about bad karma.
I’ve spent the majority of my early twenties volunteering with junior high and high school girls. I guess I just have a soft spot for girls going through that time period that was hardest for me to navigate. And a hope that maybe I can help them navigate it just a bit easier than I did. Recently, I started thinking about how I didn’t really have an older woman to go to with my issues until I was almost out of high school. I would have killed to have a cool aunt I could call to tell me that boys were ridiculous until they’re 25 anyways and that in two months, it wouldn’t matter that I didn’t get asked to the Prom. Then, she’d take me out shopping for my first pair of heels and not tell my mom. So, I’m taking on the role of cool aunt. With my own niece someday, with all the girls I’ve had the pleasure of watching grow into beautiful young women, and the women who I now call my peers that I’ve known since they were just deciding how to define themselves. And as the cool aunt, here are the things that I plan on teaching my beautiful niece. And of course, the things I would have yelled at my 15 year old self if I could go back.
At the end of senior year, the popular girls apologize. Between signing yearbooks, enjoying the familiarity of your hometown before leaving everything you know, and spending precious moments with friends you will no longer see everyday, no one has time for high school drama besides the juniors taking your spot. A group of girls that picked on me actually came up to me on the last day and apologized. And the funny thing was… I actually didn’t really care. I was already over it and excited for college. And once I did get to college 3000 miles away, I made tons of friends and had great experiences. Oh, and most of the popular girls who joined sororities and all went to the same party school upstate.. most of them ended up flunking out and moving back home. I’m just saying, pay no attention to what those girls do in high school. Life starts after graduation.
In the end, you get the guy… He’s just not the guy you thought you wanted. By this point, you’ve been through a few boyfriends. Some who broke your heart and some who you left in the dust, but let’s face it… you’ve made some horrible decisions on boys. Well, unfortunately that doesn’t stop for awhile. But you can be excited about the fact that you finally learn. And guess what? The man that steals your heart? He’s definitely not who you thought he was. He’s the kind of guy who you ignored in high school, who you always said you would be “just a friend”, who might have embarrassed you a time or two. He may love Star Trek, talk for hours about his operating system, and need some help when it comes to choosing clothes. But he is the most kind, loving, generous man you’ve ever met and you’ll be glad you opened your eyes to the possibility of him, for he ends up making you feel every bit the woman you were created to be. So don’t overlook the quiet ones.
Learn everything you can and study, study, study. Regardless of popular teenage belief, high school is in fact for learning. In five years, it won’t matter who won beer pong that one Saturday night. Or who went with who to what dance. And who wore what dress. You should spend your free time studying and learning all that you can. Leave time for fun and spend time with your friends, but make sure you study enough to get ahead. Learn to love reading. Don’t be afraid to explore those things that you think you might like. Poetry and painting might seem “nerdy” now, but later it can become an outlet for the passion you have hidden inside your soul.
Spend time with your family. Trust me, when you are sitting in your dorm room crying at 3 am because you really, really miss your Dad, you’ll wish you’d spent more nights at home with him. There will always be bowling nights, parties, girl’s nights, and movies to watch. But what you don’t know is that by the time you decide to slow down and make time for your family, things have changed quite a bit. So let your Dad take you to dinner when you don’t get asked to prom and go on that weekend trip with your mom and sister to Arizona. And for God’s sake, when you come home from college to visit your family, actually visit your family. Those friends that you keep spending time with aren’t even going to be your friends in a couple years, so enjoy the way things are in your family right now.
Find yourself and love who you are. I’ll let you in on this last little secret: You already know who you are. You were born with certain aspects of your personality already in place. You are stubborn, you talk a lot, you make a lot of jokes, you like to mediate situations, you are sensitive. These things are you and they won’t change, so stop trying to be someone different. And better yet, when those around you decide they don’t like those things about you, forget them and move on. You will save yourself a lot of time for doing so. And guess what? When you step on a scale around the age of 21 and realize for the first time that you aren’t the same size you have been since high school, I hope that you embrace it. Don’t waste even a minute of time criticizing yourself and the way you look because you are so beautiful. Embrace every part that makes you who you are, mind, body, and soul. The ones that are meant to stay in your life for the long haul will love every bit of you, too.